'Pards Host Quakers to Ring in 2010

Go Leopards! Darion Benbow and the Leopards host Penn on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Darion Benbow and the Leopards host Penn on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Jan. 2, 2010

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GAME 14 * JAN. 3, 2010

Matchup: Lafayette (7-6) vs. Penn (0-9)
Tip-off: 1 p.m.
Site: Easton, Pa.
Arena: Kirby Sports Center (3,500)
Radio: None
TV: Lafayette Sports Network (RCN-4&8, WBPH-60)
(Gary Laubach, John Leone, Dan Mowdy)
Internet: LSN All-Access on GoLeopards.com

MATCH UP: Lafayette returns home for three straight games at Kirby Sports Center. The Leopards (7-6) welcome Penn (0-9) which is coming off a two-game stint in North Carolina where the Quakers lost to Davidson and Duke. Lafayette's last outing was an 82-72 overtime loss at Delaware.

A LITTLE BIT OF STREAKING: Lafayette has pieced together a pair of three-game win streaks this season, beating St. Francis (Pa.), NJIT and Hartford the first time around and Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island and St. Francis (N.Y.) in the second three-game stint.

NEXT UP: Lafayette will play its final non-conference game of the 2009-10 season on Wednesday when the Leopards host Columbia at 7 p.m. Patriot League play opens on Jan. 9 when Lafayette hosts preseason pick Holy Cross at 1 p.m.

200 AND STILL GOING: Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon reached the 200-win plateau on Dec. 12 with the Leopards' victory over Long Island. He is the only Lafayette coach to win 200-plus games.

"O" REACHES P.L. LONGEVITY MARK: With his 417th game at the helm of the Lafayette program, Fran O'Hanlon holds the Patriot League all-time mark for games coached. He surpassed retired Bucknell coach Pat Flannery (412).

LAST TIME OUT: Junior Jared Mintz scored a career-high 26 points for Lafayette, but it was a 23-point night by Alphonso Dawson, including a pair of crucial three's in overtime, that spurred Delaware to an 82-72 final on Tuesday night. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak. Lafayette had opportunities to close out the game in regulation, leading by as many as seven (59-52) with 2:17 left. The Leopards were slowed by a paltry shooting effort from three-point land, hitting a season-worst 21 percent (5-for-24).

MOWER'S MAJOR MINUTES: Sophomore guard Jim Mower played the first seven games off the bench, but has started the last six. Mower enjoyed a breakout game vs. FDU (12/9), scoring 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He broke his own career scoring mark a game later when he scored 25 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the three-point range against LIU. That performance helped earn him his first Patriot League Player of the Week nod. In his last outing, Mower had his worst shooting night of the season at Delaware, hitting just 2-of-12 from the floor to finish with six points. The Harleysville, Pa. native is second on the team in scoring with 12.8 ppg in 24 minutes per game. The number that stands out the most for Mower is his assist/turnover ratio which is +3.3 (33/10), a stat he bolstered with four assists to one turnover at Delaware.

ABOUT PENN:Penn emerges from a two-game road swing in North Carolina with an 0-9 season mark with losses to Penn State, Villanova, Delaware in double overtime, Drexel, Navy, Albany, Monmouth, Davidson and most recently No. 7 Duke (114-55). Penn is in the midst of a five-game road swing.

An 0-7 start prompted Penn to make a coaching change, replacing head coach Glen Miller with Penn alum Jerome Allen. As a player, Allen guided the Quakers to three straight Ivy titles and left as the program's all-time leader in assists (504) and steals (166). He also scored 1,518 career points and grabbed 482 rebounds.

This Penn squad has two players scoring in double figures with sophomore guard Zack Rosen leading the way at 14.2 ppg. He has scored in double figures in seven straight games. Rosen led the Ivy League with 139 assists in 2008-09 and was the Big 5 Rookie of the Year. This season he leads the team in three-point makes (21) and is shooting 83 percent from the line.

Junior forward Jack Eggleston, whose younger brother Tommy is a freshman walk-on on the squad, is contributing 13.0 ppg while pulling down 5.0 rpg. Senior guard Darren Smith is averaging just less than 10 points per game (9.8 ppg).

MINTZ, FROM THE FLOOR: Junior forward Jared Mintz has been the Leopards' leading scorer from the outset of 2009-10. The Toronto, Canada native has been an efficient scorer. As of the latest NCAA rankings (12/20), Mintz was ranked 23rd in the country for field goal percentage, shooting 60.4 percent from the floor. Mintz scored a career-high 26 points at Delaware in the Leopards' last outing, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor. He is shooting 63 percent from the floor for the season. His season shooting percentage includes a 9-of-9 night at St. Francis (Pa.), an 8-of-10 stint at NJIT, a 6-of-7 performance vs. Hartford and a 5-for-7 day at Georgetown.

...AND THE LINE: Jared Mintz is just as efficient when he gets to the free throw line. Mintz is shooting a team-best 87 percent, making 53-of-61 attempts. He was 8-of-8 from the line at Delaware and also had an 8-of-8 shooting night to open the season vs. Wagner (11/13).

ON THE SIDELINE: The all-time winningest coach in Lafayette history and longest-tenured coach in the Patriot League, Fran O'Hanlon (Villanova, '70) is in his 15th season as the Leopards' head coach. A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year, O'Hanlon has twice led Lafayette's program to the NCAA Tournament and lays claim to three Patriot League regular-season titles. With a 75-71 double-overtime victory over Lehigh on Feb. 18, 2007, O'Hanlon became the winningest coach in Lafayette history and now holds an all-time record of 201-216 on College Hill. O'Hanlon's overall record does not necessarily tell an accurate story of the job he has done at Lafayette. The Philadelphia native inherited a 2-25 team when he took over in 1995-96 and won seven, 11, 19, 22 and 24 games over the next five seasons. From 1997-2000, Lafayette was 65-24 overall and 31-5 in the conference with two NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1996, the Patriot League, which was originally founded based on the principle of need-based financial aid only, began allowing athletic scholarships. However, it was not until 2006 that Lafayette chose to do so. By no coincidence, during that span, Lafayette posted a 79-91 mark and was 38-44 in the league.

A HELPING HAND: Lafayette has dished out assists on 60 percent of its baskets in the 2009-10 season. The Leopards had 22 assists on 26 buckets at St. Francis, N.Y. (85 percent), their best mark of the season, topping the La Salle and St. Peter's efforts of 72 percent. Lafayette's worst performance of the year in terms of assists per basket came in a win against Wagner (9 assists, 25 FG) when the Leopards made up for it by making 26-of-31 free throws. In the last outing, Lafayette had 16 assists on 24 buckets (67%). Penn has dished out assists on 64 percent of its buckets.

HANDLING THE BALL: More than a third of the way through the season Lafayette boasts a positive season assist/turnover ratio for the first time since 2000-01 (+1.03 • 434/422). Lafayette is +1.16 (194/166) this season. Lafayette had a 1:1 assist/turnover ratio in 2003-04 (429/429).

FABULOUS FRESHMAN TO SUPER SOPHOMORE?: Sophomore forward Ryan Willen was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team in 2008-09, the seventh freshman in school history to earn the accolade. This season, Willen is averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and has 21 assists. Willen's last solid outing came against St. Francis (N.Y.) when he had 13 points, two rebounds and a pair of assists. In addition to his work on the court, Willen was enrolled in Organic Chemistry, Ethics, Introduction to Psychology, Religions in World Cultures and two labs for the fall semester. LEADING THE LEAGUE: Jared Mintz leads the Patriot League in field-goal percentage (63%), is third in scoring (15.6 ppg) and free throw percentage (87%) and is also seventh in rebounding (5.8 rpg). Sophomore Jim Mower ranks third in three-point percentage (47.0%) and fourth for three-pointers made (2.4 per game). Marek Koltun and Darion Benbow rank sixth (0.8 bpg) and eighth (0.7 bpg), respectively, in blocked shots while Michael Gruner is fourth in steals (1.6 spg) and ninth in assists (2.8 apg). Jeff Kari ranks 10th in three-point field goals made (1.8). Lafayette leads the league in six categories: scoring offense (71.2 ppg), field goal percentage (46.1%), free throw percentage (73.8%), blocked shots (3.8 bpg), assist/turnover ratio (1.2) and three-point field goals made (3.8 per game). The Leopards are second in three-point field goal percentage (37.4%), assists (14.9 apg) and steals (7.2 spg).

NEC TITLE?: The Leopards finished a slate of six games against Northeast Conference (NEC) teams with a 5-1 record, beating Wagner, St. Francis (Pa.), Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island and St. Francis (N.Y.) with the only loss coming to Sacred Heart.

WHAT GARDEN STATER IS IN THAT JERSEY?: With its proximity to the Garden State (about two miles away from the border), Lafayette has played four New Jersey schools this season: NJIT, Fairleigh Dickinson, Princeton and St. Peter's. Lafayette is 2-2 in those meetings.

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: Junior forward Jared Mintz has been the Leopards' go-to guy during the 2009-10 season. Mintz's hard work in the off season has led to increased scoring output and solid work on the glass. The junior has a pair of double-doubles, contributing 20 points and 10 rebounds in the season opener vs. Wagner (11/13) and following up with 18 and 10 against Hartford (11/24). Mintz has four double-doubles for his career. For the season, he has scored in double figures in 11 games.

FACEBOOK/TWITTER: Fans can follow Lafayette basketball on Facebook at facebook.com/lafayette.leopard and Twitter at twitter.com/goleopards .

100 AND STILL GOING: Other than Nike sneakers, what do North Carolina basketball and Lafayette basketball have in common? For both teams, the 2009-10 season marks the 100th season of men's basketball. Lafayette's first season was 1900-01, but the school did not field a team from 1903-04 to 1912-13.

FRESH IMPACT: Freshman Tony Johnson has made a positive impact on the court for the Leopards. Johnson is averaging 18.2 minutes per game and has 24 assists to 16 turnovers, solid numbers for a freshman who has been asked to handle the ball often. Johnson is also second on the team in steals (13th in the Patriot League) and fourth in assists. A 6-0 native of Folsom, Calif., Johnson is the only true point guard on the team. Johnson was 7-for-7 from the line and finished with nine points while also adding three assists in 18 minutes against FDU (12/9). Fellow first-year player Levi Giese has seen action in 10 games while averaging 1.7 points and 0.7 rebounds per game. A 6-9 forward, Giese comes from Tulsa, Okla. and brings solid perimeter skills. Giese played eight minutes with three points and two rebounds at Delaware.

SOLID START: The Leopards' 4-1 start was the best since 2003-04 when Lafayette began the season 6-1. Lafayette finished 18-10 that season.

Meet the Captains: Senior guards Jeff Kari and Mike Gruner are holding leadership roles for the 2009-10 season. Kari, who served as a co-captain last season, played in all 30 games as a junior, starting 27 and was second on the team in scoring. This season, the Lisle, Ill. native is averaging 9.8 ppg and 2.1 apg. Coming out of high school, Kari was an all-state selection at Lisle Senior High School where he set seven school records and was a two-way player on the football team (wide receiver and defensive back). Gruner is averaging 7.2 ppg and leads the team with 37 assists (2.8 apg) and 21 steals (1.6 spg). He was a mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons. In 2008-09, he was the team's steadiest ballhandler, dishing out 61 assists to 44 turnovers for a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio and 196 points (8.2 ppg). Gruner is also a Marquis Scholar, the college's most prestigious academic scholarship. Coming out Bethesda, Md., Gruner led his Walt Whitman high school squad to the Maryland 4A state title while earning Gazette Co-Player of the Year honors along with the NBA's 2007-08 Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant of Montrose Christian.

SIX...IS GOOD: The Leopards had six players score in double figures against Hartford on Nov. 24. Jared Mintz led the way with 18, followed by Darion Benbow (career-high 15), Michael Gruner (13), Jim Mower (13), Jeff Kari (10) and Ryan Willen (10). The last time Lafayette had six players score in double figures, including all five starters, was Nov. 28, 2007 in an 81-69 win over Penn. Gruner is the only Lafayette player to have scored 10+ in both of those games.

IN THE RANKS: Seven of Lafayette's non-conference opponents were picked to finish within the top five of their respective leagues in the preseason polls. At No. 2, Long Island and Princeton were the highest ranked non-conference opponents the Leopards faced. Lafayette tipped off against six opponents from the Northeast Conference -- the most of any one conference on the Leopards' schedule.

THE PRESEASON POLL -- WE'LL GO AHEAD AND PLAY THE GAMES ANYWAY: Lafayette was chosen eighth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll. The poll was voted on by the conference head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was picked to finish first with 13 first-place votes, followed by Lehigh, Bucknell, Army, Colgate, American and Navy. Patriot League play kicks off for the Leopards on Jan. 9 at home against league favorite Holy Cross.

D.C. DANDIES: Though players from 11 states and three countries are represented on Lafayette's roster, the Leopards feature three from the geographic cluster that is the D.C. Metro area. Prior to arriving on College Hill, three of Lafayette's guards attended schools within 25 miles of the nation's capital. Michael Gruner shined at Walt Whitman High School, where he led his team to a state championship. Junior Ben Wheeler played at Chantilly where he garnered first team all-district and second team all-region accolades his senior year. Sophomore Nick Petkovich was an All-IAC Conference First-Team selection from Bullis Prep.

FRESH FACES: Head coach Fran O'Hanlon added two new coaches to his staff this season. Pat Doherty is a familiar face to the Lafayette program, graduating from Lafayette in 2004. Doherty was an assistant coach at Williams College in 2008-09, helping lead Williams to a 17-9 overall record. In 2007-08 Doherty served as an assistant coach at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Matt Blue holds down the final assistant coaching spot. Blue, a 2007 graduate of St. Lawrence comes to Lafayette after spending the 2008-09 season at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. He helped lead the Crusaders to an 18-8 overall mark and a 13-3 finish in the Landmark Conference.

BASKETBALL IQ: Lafayette placed a program-best three student-athletes on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll during the 2008-09 season. The distinction recognizes those individuals who have earned a varsity letter and maintained a 3.2 GPA during the spring semester. Senior Michael Gruner and sophomores Rob Delaney and Andy Moore each earned a nod.

AROUND THE WORLD: Three international players are featured on the roster for tonight's matchup. Lafayette boasts three international players in Jared Mintz (Toronto, Canada), Marek Koltun (Krakow, Poland) and Deirunas Visockas (Lithuania). Penn's roster incldes Andreas Schreiber (Taby, Sweden) and Sean Mullan (Mangerton, Australia)

ABOUT LAFAYETTE COLLEGE: Located in Easton, Pa. (70 miles west of New York City and 60 miles north of Philadelphia) on the banks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, Lafayette is a small liberal arts school with a renowned engineering program. Lafayette, which has 23 Division I sports with a student body of 2,403 undergraduates, competes in the Patriot League with Army, Navy, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Colgate, American and Lehigh. Lafayette is the alma mater of Pete Carril and Tampa Bay Rays' manager Joe Maddon.

LAFAYETTE ON TV: The Leopards will have 13 of their regular-season games televised during the 2009-10 season. The Leopards will also lead the Patriot League with seven nationally-televised games, as MASN (available through both DIRECTV and DISH Network) will air Lafayette's entire slate of home league contests on a tape-delay basis. Emmy-nominated local sports broadcaster Gary Laubach will handle all of Lafayette's play-by-play duties for the 13th straight season. Former Lafayette men's basketball coach John Leone will provide color analysis for the 11th season.

ON THE RADIO: The road games of the 2009-10 Lafayette men's basketball season will air on WSAN-AM 1470 "The Fox." Entering his 43rd season as the radio voice of Lafayette athletics, Dick Hammer will continue to call the play-by-play action. Joining Hammer courtside for most contests will be Lafayette Sports Information Director Phil LaBella.



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